Ten years ago, on 1 March 1999, the Ottawa Convention aimed at a global ban on anti-personnel mines (APM) came into force – an international agreement which set new standards in disarmament policy and the advancement of international humanitarian law. Its success is considerable: Around 40 million stockpiled APM have been destroyed worldwide, trade in APM has practically ceased, and APM are now stigmatized as weapons of war.
Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier issued the following statement on the 10th anniversary of the Ottawa Convention today in Berlin (28 February):
"The Ottawa Convention was a major step forward for international humanitarian law. Nonetheless, thousands of people are still being killed and maimed by landmines and unexploded ordnance. Our joint aim must continue to be to improve the protection of civilians. For that reason I will in particular work towards the swift entry into force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions."
Germany is one of the largest donors to humanitarian mine and ordnance clearance. Since 1992 a total of 170 million euro has been made available from the Federal Foreign Office budget for mine action projects in 40 countries around the world. For 2009 an amount of 18.6 million euro is earmarked for projects in 22 countries – the largest sum ever provided in a single year by the Federal Government for humanitarian mine and ordnance clearance. Of this, two million euro will be made available for the removal of cluster munitions in the countries most affected by this weapon type, i.e. Lebanon, Laos and Vietnam.
In the international context the EU (the Commission and the Member States combined) is by far the largest donor towards humanitarian mine clearance; between 1997 and 2007 it provided over 1.5 billion euro, and in 2008 over 27 million euro in funding was provided for projects. Germany, the largest EU contributor, also accounts for some 20 percent of contributions to mine and ordnance clearance under the auspices of ECHO, the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office.
The Ottawa Convention
The Ottawa Convention of 18 September 1997 on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on their Destruction was signed in that city on 3 and 4 December 1997 by 125 countries, including Germany, and entered into force on 1 March 1999, six months after the 40th instrument of ratification was deposited. To date 156 countries have either acceded to or ratified the Convention. Germany eliminated its own anti-personnel mine stockpiles back in 1997 and has completely cleared all its anti-personnel minefields. The last mines along the border between East and West Germany were cleared following reunification.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions
The signing of the Oslo Convention envisaging the complete prohibition of cluster munitions, on 3 December 2008, continues this advance in international humanitarian law. The task now is to achieve the necessary 30 ratifications as quickly as possible, so as to enable this agreement to come into force. The Federal Government has already initiated the required national procedure.